Poetry & Place in the Hilltowns

Poetry & Place: Exploring the Hilltown Home of 19th Century Poet William Cullen Bryant

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

Kindred Spirits was commissioned by the merchant-collector Jonathan Sturges as a gift for William Cullen Bryant in gratitude for the nature poet’s moving eulogy to Thomas Cole, who had died suddenly in early 1848. It shows Cole, who had been Jonathan Sturges mentor, standing in a gorge in Catskills in company of a mutual friend William Cullen Bryant. Painting is by artist Asher Brown Durand (1796–1886).

Western Massachusetts has been home to many poets and writers who were inspired by this region’s remarkable landscapes and natural settings. Since April is National Poetry Month, the spring season is a great time to explore some of the homes and writing places of local poets from the past, such as the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, MA.

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) was an editor, abolitionist, conservationist and poet. He grew up in Cummington, MA and later purchased his childhood home and converted it to a country house. Known for his poems inspired by nature, Bryant was also well acquainted with prominent Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand. The three of them used their artistic talents in painting and writing to champion the American landscape and helped to inspire the American conservation movement. You can read more about Bryant and his life here: www.poetryfoundation.org.

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead, now a property of The Trustees of Reservations, houses a wonderful collection of items from Bryant’s lifetime as well as interesting objects from later decades left by Bryant’s descendants and those that lived there. The property also boasts an old growth forest and a trail system that follows a rivulet – a water feature Bryant wrote about in 1823 in his poem The Rivulet. Read this poem and his most famous, Thanatopsis.

This spring and summer, The Trustees of Reservations have a variety of activities planned for folks at the homestead where visitors can volunteer, experience history and learn more about this interesting place and its antique objects. These events offer a variety of opportunities to engage your local community through different interests such as community service, local history, poetry, food traditions, and ecology, and hiking. 


 

Clean and Glean; Conservation in Action
Saturday, April 30, 2016 from 10am-5pm

Bring Bryant’s summer home out of winter hibernation by helping The Trustees at this rare, behind-the-scenes opportunity to clean the iconic collections, prepare the home for seasonal tours and learn with Curator of Collections, Mark Wilson. Come and volunteer for part of the day or the full day and expand your interest in local history while giving back to the local community. To sign up, visit http://www.thetrustees.org/volunteer or call The Trustees at 413.532.1631 x.3110.

  • Interests: Community Service Opportunity; Local History; Material Culture

Mother’s Day Tea at the Bryant Homestead
Sunday, May 8, 2016 from 1-3pm

Relive the elegance and charm of the past with Mom on Mother’s Day! Enjoy a proper afternoon tea with all of the refinery and delight of Bryant’s era. Pastries, scones, sandwiches and tea served on beautiful china accompanied by interludes of Bryant’s poetry read aloud. An unforgettable way to spend Mother’s Day with Mom & family! Pre-registration is required. For pricing details and pre-registration call The Trustees at 413.628.4485 x.3 or email hltoutreach@thetrustees.org.

  • Interests: Mother’s Day; Poetry; Food Traditions; Local History

Historic Quilt Documentation
Saturday, May 14, 2016

At 10am, observe Jane Crutchfield of the Massachusetts Quilt Documentation Project document the Bryant Homestead quilts as well as others from The Trustees’ properties in Western Massachusetts.

Have an heirloom quilt of your own that you’d like to learn more about? From 1-4pm, quilt owners can receive documentation reports for $15 per quilt by signing up at the program as they arrive. In celebration of The Trustees’ 125th anniversary, quilts documented at 125 years old receive quilt documentation for FREE! For more information on the Massachusetts Quilt Documentation Project please visit http://www.massquilt.org. Pre-registration is recommended. Call The Trustees at 413.532.1631. x.3110 or email westregion@thetrustees.org.

  • Interests: Local History; Family History; Quilting; Historical Documentation

Home Sweet Home at the Bryant Homestead
Saturday, May 21, 2016

Visit the country home of this great American poet and celebrate The Trustees’ 125th anniversary. Learn about the poet who live here and ramble the same fields and trails that inspired Bryant’s poetry.

Explore the house’s interesting features on a self-guided tour or take one of the two guided tours offered that day. Kids can go on a scavenger hunt with their families to discover the house’s historical objects! Relive this house’s incredible past through stories and antique objects on display. Be sure to join us for celebratory cake before you leave and take a walk along the Rivulet trail! FREE. For more information call The Trustees at 413. 532. 1631 x. 3110 or email westregion@thetrustees.org.

  • Interests: Local History; Poetry; Museum Studies; Decorative Arts; Material Culture; Nature Studies; Hiking

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrea Caluori-Rivera

Andrea is currently a MassLIFT AmeriCorps member serving Hilltown Land Trust and Kestrel Land Trust as a Community Engagement Coordinator.  Last year she served as a RISE AmeriCorps member at Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School in Easthampton, MA.  A Bronx, NY native, Andrea moved to New England in 2003 where she completed her A.B. in Art History at Mt. Holyoke College followed by a M.A. degree in Italian Literary & Cultural Studies at UConn Storrs where she taught Italian language. She has interned at cultural institutions such as Old Sturbridge Village and the New-York Historical Society and has taught history, culture, and farm education for a variety of youth programs.  In her spare time, Andrea enjoys writing for different online publications and exploring New England’s towns, trails, art and food culture.

 

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